Niggling injury is a source of frustration for Torquay United's Danny Stevens
Danny Stevens has his sights set on this Saturday's first Devon derby of the season to make his return to fitness for Torquay United against Plymouth Argyle at Plainmoor.
The Gulls' winger has been kept on the sidelines by a tough-to-clear thigh strain picked up more than a month ago, before United's final pre-season friendly.
"It has been a real nightmare – I've never started a season injured like this before," said Stevens, 25, who is now in his sixth year at Plainmoor.
"I was feeling so good and looking forward to carrying on from what I did last season.
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"Several times I've thought I was close to coming back, but it hasn't quite happened yet.
"I've been back running for a while now, and it's just a question of taking that final step to being fully fit.
"I've had the derby match as a target for a few weeks, and hopefully I can still make it."
When Stevens does return, it will be a major boost for manager Martin Ling. The former Tottenham and Luton Town player, who joined Torquay in the summer of 2007, scored ten goals from the left wing last season, and his ability on the ball has never been in doubt.
Only 5ft 4in tall, Stevens has bulked up considerably over the past 12 months, revealing: "I've done a lot of weights and power work in the gym, and I'm stronger now than I've ever been. That only makes the last few weeks more frustrating.
"I've been looking forward to this season so much."
Stevens may feature in today's reserve-team friendly against a Nike Academy XI at Plainmoor (2pm).
Ling, who trusted in youngster Kyrtis McKenzie to cover for suspended centre-back Aaron Downes in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Port Vale, plans to field at least two trialists in the back four.
They are thought to be former Bristol Rovers man Byron Anthony and ex-Cardiff City youngster Alex Evans, both central defenders.
Ling is still looking to strengthen his defensive roster, either through the loan market, which reopens this weekend, or via the increasing number of players freed by clubs currently looking to lighten their wage-bills.
Trainee forward Danny Sullivan will join resident senior Gulls, including goalkeeper Martin Rice, defenders Danny Leadbitter and Tom Cruise and forwards Ryan Jarvis and Ashley Yeoman, on duty today.
Also in action is likely to be Karl Baker, the former Tiverton Town and Stoke Gabriel forward who can play in this 'non-competitive' game despite being in the middle of a four-match suspension.